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and loose People impose on themselves, and endeavour to seduce others; there is none more frequently urged, than that the current Absurdities and Superftitions taught by Priests, and the Priests Hypocrisy and Villainies, are sufficient Reasons to make all Religion be deemed a Cheat, and Priests of all Religions to be deemed the fame. The Poet says, in the Person of a Libertine,
We know their holy Jugglings, Things that would ftartle Faith, and make us
deem, Not This, or That, but all Religions false.
This indeed is pitiful Reasoning, and ought to be extended no farther than to those Doctrines and Priests, against whom the Obje&tions lie. But so it is Men reason; and Experience will prove, that 'tis the High-Church Priest, and his Proceedings, which make the Atheist. But before I proceed to that Experience, I will say this in Behalf of this Argument for Atheism, that the Evil apparent in the World (which some urge as an Argument against the Existence of a Deity) seems to me most visible in the Actions of Priests, who do, in my opinion, create the greatest Disorder among Men.
The late Bishop of Sarum tells us, in his Travels, « That a Man of Quality at Rome, « and an eminent Churchman; said to him, « That it was a horrible Scandal to the whole « Christian World, and made one doubt of
the Truth of the Christian Religion, to see 6 more Oppression and Cruelty in their Teru ritories, than was to be found even in Türs key. He says, fome Physicians in Naples u are brought under the Scandal of Atheism :: « And it is certain, that in Italy Men of search « ing Understandings, who have no other « Idea of the Christian Religion, but that « which they see received among them, are u very naturally tempted to disbelieve it quite ; « for they believing it all alike in gross, with cout Distinction, and finding such notorious « Cheats as appear in many Parts of their Re“ligion, are, upon that, induced to disbe u lieve the Whole." And it is an Observation of Dr. GEDDES, that there are more People of no Religion in Italy, than in all the World besides (Tra&ts, Vol. 3.). England is also said, by our High-Church Priests, to abound with Atheists, no less than Italy. But if there besuch People, among us, they are intirely owing to the Conduct of some of our Priests, who, I will be so bold as to affirm, are as im
pudent in their Pretences to Power and Authorily, as the Italian Priests dare to be. This, though at first Sight it may seem matter of Admiration, that they should be so in such an enlightened Country as England, where so maoy understand right Reasoning, and true Christianity; yer is natural enough, if it be conGdered, that it is the last Struggle of Priests for Popery and slavery: They contend for the most ridiculous Things, as necessary to Salvation; and by their Prevarications about Oaths, and Shiftings about Doctrines, according to their Interest, dispose Men to make the same Inference, as the Men of Quality, and Men of searching Understandings, do in Italy. And some among us may, perhaps, make that Atheistical Inference, considering how the Nation had been managed in the High-Church Reign of King CHARLES the Second, when the Design, according to the late Bishop of Sarum, seemed to be to make us first Atheists, that we might more easily be Papifts.
DR. HICKES tells us, that the Practices of the Swearing Clergy, since the Revolution, who had preached Passive Obedience before, « have "tempred loose and unprincipled Men to turn « Atheists; and that those clergy have set open the Flood-Gates to that Deluge of
« Atheism and Impiety, that now overflow the “ Nation.” And he cites another Aushor with Approbation, for saying, “ This Change “ has made many sober Men sceprical, and
gone farther towards eradicating all the No« tions of a Deity, than all the Labours of « Mr. HOBBES. I have been ready to su" spect, that Religion itself was a Cheat ; and « others, of my own Knowledge, have the « fame Temptations to question Religion in S felf.”
Mr. Lefley says, “ The Carriage of the « Clergy in the Revolution, has given greater 66 Occasion to the Enemies OF THE LORD
TO BLASPHEME, and turned more Men u from the Church of England, to the Church “ of Rome, and EVEN TO ATHEISM; bas « overturned, ruined, divided, and dishonour“ ed our Church more, than if that Persecu« tion, which some feared or pretended, had « fallen upon them. He says, The Clergy * banter and mock God to his Face; and “ thar Atheism is a smaller Sin than this, since
.it is better to have no God at all, than to “ set up one, to laugh ar bim; and that the
greatest Danger to which we are now ex. « posed, by the Defect of so many of our “ Clergy, is a Contempt of all Religion ,
" which is now spread over the Land, in a “ Manner unheard of in former Ages.”
LASTLY, The late Bishop of Sarum tells us,
" That Gince his Conversation with Wilmot Earl of Rochester, he had had many « Occasions to discourse with people tainted “ with wicked Principles : And, fays be, I do « affirm, that the greatest Prejudice those Per“ fons have at Religion, at the Clergy, and at “ the public Worship of God, is this, That
they say they see Clergymen take Oaths, " and use all Prayers, both ordinary and ex
traordinary, for the Government; and yet " in their Actings and Discourses, and of late « in their Sermons, they shew visibly, that " they look another Way; from whence they a conclude, that they are a mercenary Sort of
People, without Conscience."
2. ATHEISM being, in my opinion, a most unnatural Thing, and a Crime, which, for its Madness, as well as Guilt, ought to shut a Man out of civil Society, I am not disposed to lay it to any Man's Charge, though a vicious Per. fon; much less to any fober Man's, without his open Profession of it, or an evident Proof of it upon him. But if, consistently with Charity, we may suspect any Men of Atheism, who deny themselves to be Atheists, we may cer